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Vigilance urged after a spike of Covid-19 cases in Co Down

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A cafe and care home in Crossgar have closed their doors as a precaution

A cafe and care home in Crossgar have closed their doors as a precaution

A cafe and care home in Crossgar have closed their doors as a precaution

Concerns have been raised following reports of a cluster of coronavirus cases in Co Down - although it is the only one in Northern Ireland, according to health officials.

A cafe and a care home in Crossgar have closed their doors as a precaution, citing an "outbreak of Covid-19 in our area".

It is understood the virus was detected over three households and had been identified through contact tracing. Up to 16 people are reportedly affected.

Two were hospitalised and two of those affected are children.

In a post on social media Crossgar business Cafe Q said it had taken the decision to close for sit-in customers for "a few weeks".

"No one on our staff has been affected and we want that to stay this way, and ensure that our customers also remain healthy," the business posted on its Facebook page.

Glasswater Lodge care home in Crossgar told the BBC that it had closed its doors to visitors for the time being.

"We're going to sit tight over the next week or so and see what happens and then hopefully continue with our plan to reopen once it is safe to do so," a staff member said.

"It's a bit of a setback but the staff are all great and we're sticking to the guidelines, so the atmosphere in the home is positive. We've had no cases, thankfully, and the families have all been very supportive of our decision to remain closed."

SDLP South Down MLA Colin McGrath has urged local people to remain vigilant.

"The virus has been a worrying development sweeping across the world and it is concerning to hear that it has spiked in the Crossgar and Ballynahinch area," he said.

"This underscores the need for people to be vigilant and ensure that they are continuing to wash their hands and be observant of social distancing rules.

"While we have had many easements to the regulations that were in place to guide us through this pandemic, it is apparent that it is still in our community and spikes can occur at any stage in any place.

"I welcome that the department has moved quickly to isolate this outbreak and I would ask the community to be vigilant of further cases and to follow any official directions to try and contain this outbreak.

"Contact tracing is an important element and if anyone is asked to isolate they should do so immediately. It is through working together with the authorities that we will contain any spread. I wish all those who have contracted the virus a quick return to full health and hope they receive all the support from the health services to help returns to full health."

SDLP peer and former MP Margaret Ritchie tweeted: "Speedy recovery to all those affected. Hope there is an adequate track and trace in place."

The Public Health Agency (PHA) said it is "aware of current media speculation regarding an alleged cluster in Newry, Mourne and Down area".

It said: "The contact tracing process will identify any potential links between positive cases both within and outside households. We have not identified any current clusters other than household related infections in the Newry, Mourne and Down area.

"With some ongoing community transmission of Covid-19, it is expected that there will be variation in the number of cases detected across geographical areas, and with small numbers of cases, we must be cautious about the significance of these variations.

"PHA will continue to monitor all cases of Covid-19, look for trends and linked cases, and where we need to advise or inform the public of any increased risk to public health.

"We will not comment on individual cases as this could lead to people being identified and deter others with symptoms coming forward to be tested. We would ask everyone to be mindful of this risk."

Meanwhile, no additional deaths were recorded with Covid-19 in Northern Ireland on Tuesday, according to data compiled by the Department of Health, leaving the total number of people who have died in the region at 554.

Another five positive cases have been recorded since Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the region to 5,761, according to the department.

Belfast Telegraph